Chuck's Corner

Middle School Black History Month Assembly

February 24, 2022

I am so proud. Today, I was invited to attend the Middle School assembly with its combined purpose of recognizing both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (rescheduled from January) and Black History Month. I was blown away. This multimedia assembly — packed into a mere 30 minutes — included facts, prose, music, performance and opened my eyes to pivotal people and stories I did not know. It was creative, it was innovative, it was informative, but mostly it was inspiring. I was equally as inspired by the student performers as I was their powerful messages.

Eighth-grade student, Maxwell, welcomed us in Thies, “The assembly is being put on by members of the Mosaic Club, as well as other interested students, who have worked hard to present what you will see today,” and extended an invitation to his fellow students to attend the next Mosaic Club meeting.


I want to share with you what I gleaned.

Students taught me more about Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old from Montgomery, AL, the Greensboro Four, who all “stood up by sitting down,” and the youth who marched in the Children’s Crusade. They read poetry about those who came before us, who endured brutalities to shine paths to brighter possibilities. Students spoke of basic human rights, Jim Crow laws, they spoke of courage, of brave individuals who are not commonly known.

Courageous students spoke of change. And humility. About bravery and brilliance.

They said, “You matter.”

They shared a video about Audrey Faye Hendricks, the youngest known person (at only age 9) arrested during the Civil Rights Movement in the Children’s Crusade, and about the Greensboro Four, who refused to give up their seats at the Woolworth lunch counter, wanting only to be served a strawberry shortcake and a cup of coffee as white people were. “We don’t think it’s right,” the four NC A&T college students argued. 

“It’s not that these people were hungry for dessert. They were hungry for respect,” our student narrators added.


Charlie and Gus, both Middle School Mosaic Club members, concluded the assembly with the names Fred Korematsu and Dolores Huerta. While not Black, these individuals fought for equal rights and stood up for their heritage in a country and time that denied them political and social freedom and equality.

The Middle School Chorus gathered on stage and performed Alterations by Andrea Ramsey; the poignant refrain:

Please point out the way that's right
Please bring me a nice dream this night
One that can relief my questions
The one of life alterations!

A tremendous Head of School ovation to today’s Middle School performers and presenters, and to your teachers, advisors, and administrators. Charlie, Maxwell, Wilson, Sophia, Sam, Michaela, Jade, Sophia, Julian, Elle, Brooke, Leela, Sammy, Ivy, Robert, Flinn, Amit, Harley, Jordan, Gus, and David — you represent our future. Many of the experiences you shared today were of young people close to your own age. Like them, you are all brave enough to stand up for what you believe in. I am proud of you and I honor the work you have done here today.

A Common Thread

December 6, 2021

“My children know and uphold the honor code they learned at Latin — but for them, the honor code is not about cheating, it's about how we treat each other. They carry that with them wherever they go.”
- Parent of Alumni

While educators always want to have an impact on their students’ lives — it’s a big part of why we choose this vocation — the power of this statement is profound. Latin teaches, models, nurtures, and develops students to be well-educated, respectful, and kind. That’s a powerful combination. It’s a rock-solid foundation from which students continue to grow, live, and flourish far beyond campus. While many schools market themselves as developing exceptional human beings, Latin delivers.

Again and again, we hear from and read about our students and alumni living lives of consequence. From Anthony Morrow’s ’04  work in Charlotte through his AMOCharites to Molly Green ’17 working in myriad ways serving others, and First Lieutenant Andrew Gibson ’09, who spoke to students at our annual Veterans Day assembly, Latin’s graduates are impressive people. While we applaud and celebrate their many accomplishments, it’s their qualities as human beings for which I am, and many parents are, most proud. It’s Latin’s lifelong impact.

Andrew shared this in his address to students:

“Honor Above All is more than just a phrase you see above a door or that you write on the top of an exam. It is what your community and your country expect of you when you leave this great school.” (Watch the Middle and Upper School Veterans Day Assembly.)

Do you see a common thread running through the two quotes? 

Our unwavering commitment to Latin’s Mission and Core Values are the bedrock of our institution. As we begin December festivities and look toward 2022, they continue to be our compass for our path forward and our guiding principles that keep our community strong and united in our work to educate young people to be exceptional human beings. 

December is an event-filled month as we celebrate the season. I hope to see you at our numerous upcoming seasonal and athletics events. 

Happy holidays and warm wishes for a wonderful winter break. 

Chuck Baldecchi
Head of School

sally ad anthony molly green Chuck and Andrew

A Thanksgiving Message

November 17, 2021

I am grateful for school. 

You may be thinking, “I certainly hope so; it’s his job!” Perhaps this statement seems obvious since I am a Head of School, but COVID has deepened my gratitude for and awareness of school. Until recently, I didn’t realize how much I appreciate aspects of school I may have previously taken for granted, including class every day, Friday Night Lights, Theatre Alfresco, dances, and simply seeing smiling, laughing students. 

Do you know who brought that recognition to light for me? Our students. Specifically our Seniors. The last couple of years have been intense — decisions to make, hybrid teaching,  playground zones, lunch inside and outside, masks, spectators online, staying connected, emails, questions, feedback. I’ve come to understand deeply the saying, “Sometimes you don’t know what you have until it's gone.” Have you experienced this? I bet I’m not alone in experiencing new appreciation for what we used to take somewhat for granted. 

Gratitude is funny like that. Our Senior class has experienced nearly two years of COVID. The result could have been frustration, bitterness, or worse, but they chose to surf the waves of change and seemingly say, “Challenge accepted!” Admirably, they demonstrate the best of what we aim to instill in our students — tenacity, creative problem solving, teamwork, leadership. The Class of 2022 has no time for negative time and space. They live in the present. They hang out in the quad with friends and enjoy their time in the sun. Collectively, they fill the stands on a Tuesday night to be together, support their peers, and celebrate with Hawk spirit. Time and again, I see them go the extra distance, take an extra step, cheer louder, experiencing life and gratitude for the moment. 

I’ll share three stories with you from this fall that embody this spirit of gratitude — moments with students that brought a smile to my face and filled my heart. Keep in mind that these are just a few of the many stories we experience daily at Latin that bring joy to our students and our school. They’re moments to savor. The collective smiles are why I am grateful for school.

The entire Lower School recently embarked on the annual Aspire to Be… project. This year’s theme is Aspire to be Seen. Each grade level read books that explore identity and self-affirmation, and the project culminated with an impressive, large-scale art installation along the Lower School corridors. A primary goal in this unit is to discuss, model, and support belonging, which includes being seen and valued beyond our external, visual identifiers. In Grades TK–4, students interviewed one another, but in Grade 5, our eldest Lower School students interviewed the faculty. Elliot Meek from Grade 5 interviewed me. He came to my office and talked with me about the project and countless other things. In fact, we visited for 20 minutes. “I’m known for my socks,” he told me. “And I am the Varsity Boys’ #1 basketball fan.” I treasure that time with Elliot and am grateful for the friendship that has ensued.

Elliott and Mr B

Last month, Grade 6 Middle School students, Lillie Boone, Kennedy Clutter, and Eve Willette, initiated a THINK PINK day for Breast Cancer Awareness month. They encouraged students and faculty to wear pink, and did they ever! Even Fisher, our Middle School emotional support dog, was decked out in pink. It was a tremendous success. Students and faculty in both Middle and Upper Schools united in a pink sea of citizenship for a worthy cause. It did my heart good.

MS Think Pink

Finally, when our Varsity Soccer team played Charlotte Country Day on a Tuesday night last month at CCDS, our students were asked to be in their stands on their side. We had a lot of kids there. The sheer number of students who were there in support makes me proud. But after the game, as I was leaving, I saw our CLS students in the stands going row by row, picking up trash left by our fans. Seniors Mary Schleusner and Kyleigh Panther led this effort. An impressive example of responsibility, Hawk-pride, and “Challenge accepted.” I am proud of their initiative, and it is but one representation of the daily modeling these students do on our campus. I am grateful for their leadership and civility and the strong example they set. 

These are a few of the wonderful stories showing how Latin students live our Mission and Core Values. As we approach Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, it is the people in my life for which I am most thankful. There may be supply chain issues for holiday gift-giving, but community is in full supply at Charlotte Latin in this season of giving thanks — especially among our student body — and for that, I am most grateful.

With gratitude for a job I love,


Charles D. Baldecchi
Head of School
 


 

Voice Matters

Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman

 

February 21, 2021

 

Watch and Read Gorman's "The Hill We Climb"

 


We are striving to forge a union with purpose

 

To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and

 

conditions of man

 

And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us

 

but what stands before us

 

We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,

 

we must first put our differences aside


Watching Amanda Gorman read her poem, "The Hill We Climb," is as moving today as it was the first time I saw it, if not more so. The poem is an astonishing accomplishment that supersedes any iambic pentameter I've ever known. Its rhyme, delivery, and innovation are piercing. As we honor Black History Month and the lives and legacies of those who have gone before us, this young Black woman, through her words and her voice, creates history before our very eyes and forges a path for the nation to follow.

 

Precise. Clear-eyed. Optimistic. Ready. Committed. Hopeful. Heard. Energized.

 

These are words that come to mind as I've reflected on her message over the past several weeks. I've thought not only about her words but also about her youth. She is 22 years old — the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, and our country's first National Youth Poet Laureate, which she was named in 2017 — at the age of 18! Gorman grew up in Los Angeles and was raised by a single mother, a sixth-grade English teacher in Watts. (Read her bio on Wikipedia.) She studied Sociology at Harvard University, graduating cum laude. Her additional accomplishments include writing books, two of which were concurrent New York Times bestsellers, being named in College Women of the Year by Glamour Magazine, receiving a genius grant from OXY Media, and reciting a poem at the 2021 Super Bowl. All by the age of 22!

 

We watched and we marveled. But most importantly we heard and we listened. And we learned that just like words matter, voice matters. The energy in Gorman's delivery is palpable. Her voice is the voice of our tomorrows, the voice of America's young people — and the voice of our students. Hers is a message of hope for a better, more harmonious world. She reminds us that wisdom, when paired with voice, can change the world. Hearing her confirms for me how important it is to listen to young people — to hear their dreams, listen to their challenges, and work to understand their perspectives.

 

We will not be turned around

 

or interrupted by intimidation

 

because we know our inaction and inertia

 

will be the inheritance of the next generation

 

Our blunders become their burdens

 

"Our inaction and inertia…; Our blunders become their burdens…" — such perception from a 22-year-old. In my class, we talked about how someone so young could be a spokesperson for a generation, how young people like Gorman and climate activist, Greta Thunberg, can be heard, and how they can shape the opinion — and the direction — of the world. Our classroom conversation about students' own impact at Latin — and in the world — was exciting and enlightening for both my class and me, touching the very essence of why I teach and choose to work in education. 

 

Other groups and classes have continued the conversation as well. Gorman's poem was recently the topic of a Middle School initiative called Middle School Chat and Chew, a time and space where young students and faculty gather virtually to share thoughts about important events and issues. It is vital that we continue the conversation and celebrate Gorman's role and place at this point in our own history and futures. 

 

Through her inauguration poem, Gorman addresses issues of race and divisiveness in our country with candor. But it is her optimism that sets her words apart, with positivity and hope about a future that today's youth — her peers — deserve to hear and embrace. I continue to be energized by her words and reminded of why it is important to listen to our youth, our students. We stand to learn so much from them. 

 

We the successors of a country and a time

 

Where a skinny Black girl

 

descended from slaves and raised by a single mother

 

can dream of becoming president

 

only to find herself reciting for one

 

And yes we are far from polished

 

far from pristine

 

but that doesn't mean we are

 

striving to form a union that is perfect

 

We are striving to forge a union with purpose

 

 

A Thanksgiving Message from Mr. B

November 2020

A 30% return is quite impressive. Who wouldn't take that investment if it only required a small change in one's life? A couple of years ago, our family made such a change. My wife, Erin, took courses through the University of Pennsylvania and The Flourishing Center in New York. During her research, an interesting statistic popped out. Expressing gratitude daily increases a person's well-being by 30%. That seemed crazy. How would it work? What exactly would one need to do to reap the benefits? What exactly is "gratitude?" We decided as a family to give it a try; what could we lose? 

We are lucky to eat dinner together as a family most nights, and we have a family tradition to bless the food. We decided that following the blessing, every family member would go around and explicitly say what he or she was "thankful for." I don't want to give any false impressions here. Most evenings, the kids pick something mundane or easy to be thankful for. They scan the kitchen for an idea and race each other to be the first to share the easy ones. These include, "I am grateful for Ida and Frodo (our dogs)" or a barely audible "mom's spaghetti" as my son shovels a full bite into his mouth and speaks with his mouth full (note to self: we also need to work on manners) or "my friends" or "mom and dad." As anyone who has teenagers knows, a response beyond a one-word answer is a win for any parent starving for information. Cynicism aside, Erin and I decided to stick with the "gratitude talk." Two years later, it has become a family tradition.

Every once in a while, we get a nugget, and surprisingly, during COVID, those nuggets are coming pretty frequently. Instead of the muffled "thank you for making pasta," we recently heard, "I really appreciate the fact that we have dinner together every night as a family. I know how hard you worked to cook this meal, and I have enjoyed all of this family time together during COVID." Silence followed that one — and the next sound heard was Erin's jaw hitting the kitchen table. Here are a few more. Instead of "I am grateful for Ida and Frodo," our youngest acknowledged, "After a difficult day at school, I love that I can go upstairs to my bedroom and hug Ida for 30 minutes. She listens and doesn't say anything back at all; she just listens. We are so lucky to have our dogs." Another shared, "I am really grateful for Latin's Cheer Team and the girls on the team. I was worried about moving schools during my junior year and making friends. The girls on the team are awesome. It's not cliquey at all, and everyone really looks out for each other and is so encouraging." 

Science says that the real advantage is in the details. The more specific you are about your gratitude, the bigger impact it has. While those moments don't happen often, when they do, it's beautiful to experience. When your child acknowledges how lucky she is and how grateful he is, it puts everything into perspective. 

This fall, Erin and I noticed a definite shift in our family gratitude talks. The mundane, frequently taken for granted aspects of school and life at Latin, come up often. "I am so grateful we have the opportunity to have class in person. I can't believe I am saying this, but I am grateful for school." Another one mentioned was, "I am grateful my teacher met me before school today to go over my quiz. They didn't need to do that." or "COVID is stressful on students, but you can tell how stressful this is for faculty. They have to teach us in class and the students at home. It is crazy how difficult it is to go back and forth between the two. They are really making a difference." 

November always makes me think about gratitude, with the month culminating in Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday), when we spend time with family, eat great food, and live in the moment. Gratitude comes from reflection, and as I reflect on 2020, it's been a year of great disruption and hardship. COVID has not just inconvenienced our lives; it has brought sickness and death, stress and anxiety, disconnection, and isolation — the list could go on and on. But 2020 also highlighted and prioritized what is important — truly important — in life. This year, more than any other in my career has shown me what a community can accomplish together that it could never approach if we worked as individuals. While I certainly receive phone calls where a parent or faculty member can only see what is in it for their child or how it affects them as an individual, every day, every week, every month I hear from parents, faculty, volunteers, students, alumni — members of the Latin community — who sacrifice their individual wants and desires for that of the greater good. Paradoxically, and altruistically, something amazing happens as a result of that sacrifice, collectively we receive far more from Latin than if we each got what we wanted. I see it when volunteers give their free time to monitor lunch and conduct temperature screenings. I see it in the generosity of our community as their donations to the Latin Fund offset the incredible costs incurred during COVID. I see it in the grace given by parents, faculty, and students to each other. 

Quite simply put, I am grateful for Charlotte Latin School. While the research says the return on well-being should be 30%, I want to acknowledge the return has been far greater and more substantial than any data point can capture.

P.S. If you are interested more in the power of gratitude, here are some wonderful resources. 

Mr. Chuck Baldecchi headshot
Chuck Baldecchi,
Head of School

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